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Near Miss with Dog Bite: Help

pennynikkel
June 25th, 2006, 10:57 AM
Hi there,

Some of you may remember me posting occassionally about my Max. I got Max as a puppy and he was a very frightened, unconfident puppy. He is now 16 months (a 135 lb South African Mastiff), and I have worked very hard to socialise him to dogs and people. His main problem has been fear of strange dogs, but he has a general tendency to react to things/people that he is unfamiliar with or that appear odd to him.

Last night was our dog classes final night together. We gathered for some fun, but it was one day that I wish never happened. Max had some moments were people were spooking him, and he was reacting badly. Early on, someone blew in his face (which he doesn't like) and he barked loudly at him. Next, Max was lying down and looking photogenic, so someone was about 5 feet away and had a camera pointed at him. He lunged and barked. When this happens, I pull him back quickly and grab him by the scruff and let him know it's bad, and put him in a down. Maybe I wasn't firm enough. Then, finally, at the end of the evening, a very nice lady asks to pat Max, and I say yes. He has gotten very good with taking pats from people, whereas he used to pull back, now he takes it quite well. As she started to pat him, I noticed that she did lean over him, looking him dead on, and it was so fast that before I could say stop, Max went and lunged right at her face. Had I not been right there and quick on the leash, she would probably be very badly bitten directly on the face. By God's grace, she is fine, but I am stunned by this, and truly did not see this as predictable behavior. Yes, he was tired, hot and probably over stimulated, but this is to me, crossing a line I never wanted my big boy to cross. I am at a loss what to do. My first thoughts are that he is 99.999% WONDERFUL, and that for the .001% that he is now a danger! And that I cannot bear what might happen in that .001%. The trainers were there, and we spoke. They suggested regrouping with all the tools that I have learned during the course to limit his freedoms, and make sure he isn't getting away with an inch at home. The training philosophy is to use leadership and body language, so I have been well trained on all the techniques to use to establish my leadership. I respect this advice, but truthfully think that he does see me as leader, and that in Max's case, I could be Cesar Milan, Jean Donalson and Pat Miller all rolled into one, and he would still couldn't stop himself from reacting to a situation when he finds it threatening, because at his core, he is a scaredy.

Like I said, I am at a loss. Do I buy a muzzle, and muzzle him at all times in public, because there may be a split second where someone moves in rattles him and he reacts. Does it make sense to do that at dog parks? People would think I'm nuts! Is the training approach not working? Do I try a new trainer? I would obviously hate the idea of putting him down, but when I re-imagine what happened, he was a hair's breath away from her face...she could be in the hospital, and Max could be taken away from me, if it was a different outcome.

Thanks for listening and I welcome any feedback.
Regards,

cpietra16
June 25th, 2006, 12:45 PM
Pennynikkel, it sounded like the whole day was very streesful for him. Any other time, he may not have reacted to the pat but with all that happened that day the pat was just too much. I think to make it safe for you and other people , just don't let him be patted. It would be terribel if something were to happen. Just don't chance it ...especially when you can't read his body language yet. Good luck

Prin
June 25th, 2006, 01:07 PM
Why did somebody blow on him? :confused: I don't know too many dogs who take blowing well...

I'd definitely go see another trainer who can teach you in a way that makes you more solid around your own dog. You just don't sound confident, and to me that's what you should get out of training your dog in a way that you are comfortable. (JMO).

kaytris
June 25th, 2006, 03:22 PM
Its either Sue Sternberg or Jean Donaldson that uses a step pyramid to show escalating stress which leads to aggression issues... a dog may not react to one single issue, but pile issue ontop of issue, and we've got a biting dog. (Ie. A dog may not like men, nor bicycles, nor hats, nor loud noises, nor uniforms - each of those individually might cause tension but no more - but a british bobby with a bearskin hat on a bike shooting a gun - watch out! )

You know your dog's triggers, and its your responsibility to manage his circumstances so that the triggers are minimized. And I wouldn't be taking him to off leash parks anymore either.

littlesister
June 27th, 2006, 12:01 PM
Highest on the priority list, in my opinion, is to watch out for kids. They are the beings who may most naively scare your dog. Assume that all kids know nothing about being safe around dogs, and may set off all the triggers.

We can't expect anyone for that matter to know how to avoid being bitten, because the reality is, not everyone can know everything. There will always be someone that will make the wrong moves, and it's our huge responsibility to protect those unknowing people and kids.

tenderfoot
June 27th, 2006, 05:54 PM
This is not about how great he is 99% of the time (he is supposed to be great 100% of the time) this is about how bad he can be in the remaining 1%.

These are animals, not fur babies (as much as we wish they were). They have drives, emotions, reactions, fears, and very powerful teeth. They can flee or fight. When fleeing is not an option they have to fight to survive.

There was a day when I would have fought to say that all dogs can be changed. Until I was attacked in a very similar situation by a bull mastiff. I won't go into details. Our final analysis on this dog was he was not to live with children, had to be managed by a confident adult at all times or kept safely away from others and should be muzzled when in public.

Normally I hated muzzles and felt they did not teach. I still don't think they teach and have never actively used one on a dog. BUT - for this dog it was a matter of living a semi normal life & being muzzled, or not (and I don't even want to talk about what NOT means).

There is a place in Colorado called Ugly Dawgs - this is an amazing woman who takes on large aggressive breeds and gives them a home for life. I think the Bull Mastiff is destined to live there.

jessi76
June 28th, 2006, 12:31 PM
As she started to pat him, I noticed that she did lean over him, looking him dead on, and it was so fast that before I could say stop, Max went and lunged right at her face.

Obviously the wrong way to pat your dog. I have "petting rules" for my dog. When people ask, I say yes, BUT rules are: dog must FIRST be in a sit-stay before any petting takes place. NO PETTING from above or anywhere near the head/face. Petting on the SIDE only.

My dog is "threatened" by hands coming at his head, and if someone were to lean over him and do this, well...it would provoke the "flee or fight" reactions.

Do I buy a muzzle, and muzzle him at all times in public, because there may be a split second where someone moves in rattles him and he reacts. Does it make sense to do that at dog parks? People would think I'm nuts! Is the training approach not working? Do I try a new trainer?

If I were you, I'd skip the dog parks all together. I wouldn't muzzle him, but I would take great care in avoiding such situations in the future. If someone asks to pet him, say NO, or be strict about the rules, such as I do. The training is probably fine, but as with all training, I think some things need to be "tweeked" for each dog. Accepting petting from strangers is something that needs to be tweeked to suit Max. I would however, continue to practice with people both you & max are comfortable with, and who know your dog, such as your trainers.